Chatham University

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Chatham University President Esther Barazzone to retire in the summer of 2016 after leading Chatham through over two decades of profound institutional transformation

June 3, 2015

Chatham University President Esther Barazzone has advised the University’s Board of Trustees of her intention to retire in the summer of 2016. The announcement was made ahead of Chatham’s Board of Trustees June 5, 2015 meeting. When she steps down as President, Barazzone will have served nearly 25 years in the position, and end her tenure as one of the longest serving private college presidents in the country.

During her time as President, Barazzone led the transformation of Chatham from a small, financially struggling, undergraduate women’s college of 500 students to a fully coed, internationally recognized university with enrollment of over 2,100 graduate and undergraduate students; an endowment of over $80 million dollars (increased from $35 million in 1992); and three campus locations—the historic Shadyside Campus, the Eastside Building in the East End, and the net zero Eden Hall Campus in the North Hills of Pittsburgh—making Chatham the largest academic university by acreage in Allegheny County. View a comparison of Chatham in 1992 vs. today.

In the decade preceding Dr. Barazzone’s hire in 1992, Chatham experienced extreme financial and enrollment struggles that included the selling off of significant numbers of college buildings, an enrollment decline to less than 500 students (from a peak of 700 in the 1960’s), a $3 million dollar budget deficit and over $2.5 million in needed building repairs. Since joining Chatham, she has led the university through over two decades of reinvention, reinvestment and renewed recognition for this historic Pittsburgh institution.

Today, Chatham is a fully transformed and stronger institution. A university that with the decision to make the undergraduate college coed in May 2014 is preparing to welcome the projected largest incoming undergraduate class in decades (over 275 incoming, undergraduate students) and a balanced cash budget for 2015. Chatham has earned strong rankings and recognition during President Barazzone’s tenure, such as selection as a Top 50 Green College and Top 20 Green College by the Princeton Review and Sierra Club, respectively. In addition, Chatham has locations and space for future expansion, over $150 million raised in private gifts and grants since 1992, total assets of over $210 million today (from $45 million in 1992), and in honor of Chatham’s heritage as a former women’s college, a newly imagined commitment to women and issues of gender equity with the launch of the $8 million dollar endowed Chatham University Women’s Institute in June 2015.

Reflecting on her hire and time at Chatham, Dr. Barazzone said, “I very quickly understood that Chatham was an institution seeking change, and I had either been a change agent or seeking places that were change-oriented ever since I went to New College as an undergraduate student. In fact, my time at Chatham has been marked by a great deal of institutional change, such as: the introduction of graduate education, implementation of a university-wide commitment to sustainability, integration of global education opportunities for our students, and the reimagining of how to best support women and issues of gender equity today. None of this would have been possible without the support, hard work and willingness to adapt for a better future as displayed by Chatham’s board, faculty, staff, students, alumnae and alumni.”

The Chatham University Board of Trustees will begin a search for her successor this summer.

Chatham University, A Timeline of Transformation: Dr. Esther Barazzone 1992 - 2015
(Click to Expand)

  • Esther Barazzone becomes the 18th president of Chatham College
  • Coed graduate programs launched ushering in new era for Chatham
  • For first time in years, Chatham balances a budget of $23 million
  • Launch of the Global Focus program to foster global awareness and education
  • Full establishment of the Elsie Hillman Chair in Women & Politics
  • Creation of the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics
  • Opening of the $10 million Buhl Science Complex (1st new building in 30 years)
  • Keep the Vision Splendid campaign raises $31 million against a $25 million goal
  • Enrollment grows to 1,200 students (highest in history)
  • Awarding of Chatham’s first doctoral degree
  • Received the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education: Internationalizing the Campus 2003.
  • Endowment surpasses $50 million (from $35 million in 1992)
  • Opening of the $18 million Athletic and Fitness Center
  • Launch of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship. Initial funding was provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Lois Tack Thompson Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation.
  • Introduction of first online courses and programs
  • Dr. Barazzone and Chatham students lead effort to rename 9th Street Bridge the Rachel Carson Bridge in honor of Chatham’s most famous alumna
  • Chatham College becomes Chatham University
  • Endowment reaches $63 million
  • Enrollment grows to 1,700 students with over ¾ enrolled as graduate students
  • Charter signatory of American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025
  • Chatham purchases new Eastside Location for growing health science programs
  • Eden Hall Foundation gives Chatham 388-acre site in Richland, PA; plans begin to create Eden Hall Campus
  • Establishes School of Sustainability & the Environment, one of the first in the country for the field
  • Eden Hall Campus Master Plan developed by BNIM and Andropogon
  • Breaks ground on net zero Eden Hall Campus Phase 1 construction
  • Receives largest gift in history with $15 million gift from the Falk Foundation; Names Falk School of Sustainability & Environment in honor of gift
  • Only North American school recognized with an International Campus Sustainability Network award for sustainability integration of campus & academics
  • Chatham’s Board of Trustees approves undergraduate coeducation
  • Completion of Phase 1a of Eden Hall Campus construction
  • The Sierra Club names Chatham one of the top 25 greenest colleges in the nation
  • Chatham prepares to welcome largest undergraduate class in decades
  • Eden Hall Campus opens to residential students
  • Chatham earns the highest ranking among western Pennsylvania institutions in the US News & World Report “Regional Universities - North” category
  • Opening of the Chatham University Women’s Institute
  • Chatham’s enrollment reaches 2,130 (compared to 538 in 1992)
  • NEXT, the Campaign for Chatham raises $80 million of $100 million goal

In further commenting on her decision, Barazzone stated, “As we look to the future, it is my sincere hope that Chatham maintains the pace and daring of innovation and non-traditionalism which has marked its last two decades. The main difference today from the early ‘90’s, when Chatham’s entire existence was challenged, is that we now have a reputation and reality for change orientation. This affords us an opportunity to put even more stakes in the ground, such as our leadership in the field of sustainability and the inspiration of Rachel Carson (our most famous alumna), to serve as guideposts for the future development of this historic Pittsburgh institution of learning. I look forward to being part of and watching Chatham’s continued success and transformation.”

Jennifer Potter ’66, Chair of Chatham’s Board of Trustees had this to say about President Barazzone’s leadership, “Esther Barazzone has been a remarkable and transformative leader for this university. When she was hired in 1992, Chatham was at a crossroads, and future success was far from certain. She led the introduction of graduate programs, which today represent 2/3 of Chatham’s enrollment. She led the university-wide commitment to sustainability, leading to Eden Hall Campus and international recognition for our efforts. She put the institution on strong financial ground with total assets growing from under $50 million to over $200 million during her tenure. With the full support of the board, she has blazed a path of innovation and reinvention that has transformed Chatham into the dynamic, strong and successful university it is today.  She has been a truly remarkable President.”

Turning to Chatham’s historical heritage, Potter added, “While Chatham has made the decision to become a coed institution, Dr. Barazzone and the board are dedicated to ensuring that we have a strong and reimagined approach to supporting and furthering our commitment to women and the critically important issues of gender equity today and in the future.”

Speaking on the search for the next President of Chatham, Potter stated, “Chatham’s Board of Trustees, assisted by others in the University community and professional support, will begin the search for her successor in the coming weeks. Given the success of Chatham over the past two decades and the bright future ahead, we look forward to the high caliber candidates who will be interested in leading this great Pittsburgh university.” 

About Dr. Esther Barazzone

Esther Barazzone became President of Chatham University in 1992, after a career as a faculty member and administrator at Hamilton and Kirkland Colleges, the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College and Philadelphia University. Dr. Barazzone holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in European Intellectual History from Columbia University, where she was a Fellow of the Faculty. Dr. Barazzone was a Charter Scholar in the first graduating class of New College in Sarasota, Florida, where she earned her B.A. in Philosophy and History. She received a US Student Fulbright award to Spain and studied at the Wharton School of Business Administration and at Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management.

Dr. Barazzone is an active leader in the national higher education community and has served on many boards, including the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), Chair of the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), and Chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP). She is or has been a member of the Boards of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dollar Bank, Allegheny Conference on Community Development (only the 2nd woman to ever be appointed), Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh.

Dr. Barazzone has received many honors for her work at Chatham and in the community, including the PNC Women of Legacy Award (2015); Pittsburgh Business Times Diamond Award (2012); History Maker in Education, Senator H. John Heinz III History Center (2006); the Vectors Pittsburgh Woman of the Year in Education (1999); and YWCA Leadership Award in Education (1999). Her work in international education has been recognized with the University Medal from Fatima Jinnah Women's University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan (2001); honorary doctorates from Seoul Women's University in Seoul, Korea (2000) and Doshisha Women's College in Kyoto, Japan (1999); and the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award for Outstanding Leadership for Peace and Humanitarianism from Morehouse College (2004). She has also been recognized for her work on behalf of the advancement of women by the Susan B. Anthony Leadership Award from the Women's Leadership Assembly (1999).

About Chatham University

Now fully coed, Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, has over 2,100 students in the School of Health Sciences; the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment; and the School of Arts, Science and Business. Chatham is the alma mater of environmental icon Rachel Carson, and is recognized as a leader in the field of sustainability, having been named to Sierra Magazine’s list of top 20 “cool schools” and mentioned in Forbes as one of the places “contributing to Pittsburgh’s transformation into a destination for green living.” Building on these accomplishments, Chatham opened in 2014 the world’s first fully sustainable campus in higher education, Eden Hall Campus. Consistently ranked as a best college by U.S. News & World Report, Chatham earned the highest ranking among western Pennsylvania institutions in the “Regional Universities - North” category for 2015.